Commerce Secretary Takes Medical Leave Of Absence
With questions still swirling about what exactly happened over the weekend in Los Angeles, Secretary of Commerce has stepped aside temporarily, or at least it’s temporary for now:
LOS ANGELES — It began Saturday afternoon at a railroad crossing in a run-down commercial neighborhood in suburban San Gabriel, on a street bustling with signs in Chinese characters. A man in a Lexus rolled into the back of a Buick waiting for a train to pass. Two miles and five minutes later, the Lexus smacked into the rear of yet another car, in neighboring Rosemead.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office found the driver passed out at the wheel and took him to the hospital for observation. He was cited for a hit-and-run.
The driver was John E. Bryson, the commerce secretary, one of the lower-profile members of President Obama’s cabinet but a well-known figure in California energy and business circles. The episode set off a squall of speculation and questions from here to the White House about what had happened in the San Gabriel Valley.
By late Monday night, Mr. Bryson informed the White House that he would be taking a medical leave of absence to undergo tests and evaluation and that Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank would assume his duties.
“The president’s thoughts are with Secretary Bryson and his family during this time,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman. “Secretary Bryson assured the White House that the Commerce Department staff will not miss a beat in their work helping America’s businesses compete.”
The White House said Mr. Bryson had suffered a seizure. But officials there and at the Commerce Department declined to offer details on Mr. Bryson’s medical history, including what might have caused the seizure, and took pains to say they were not saying the seizure caused the episode. They said that this was the first such seizure he had suffered.
“The commerce secretary was alone,” Mr. Carney said. “He had a seizure. He was involved in an accident.”
White House officials said Mr. Bryson had told them that he did not recall the events leading to the episode.
Mr. Bryson passed a breathalyzer test at the scene and submitted to a blood toxicology test, said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He said that if the report came back negative, Mr. Bryson would not be charged.
There were no significant injuries, or heavy vehicular damage, in the accidents, which took place shortly past 5 p.m. on Saturday.
If charges don’t get filed officially, then I’d say this is pretty much over for Bryson as far as political blowback goes. The question then becomes whether his medical condition, whatever it might be, requires him to step aside.